KNOCK! KNOCK! “WHO IS IT?” IS IT THE REAL TENOR OR IS IT THE MOCK? SLAM! “QUICK HIDE IN THE CLOSET” SLAM! LEND ME A TENOR IS A LAUGH SHOCK. A MADCAP MERRY-GO-ROUND

IS THIS MY TENOR?
Molly McCaskill in a starstruck performance as The Boss’s Daughter Maggie in the arms of a divine Pagliacci , in love with the Clown’s performance, but is it Max (J. Daw) in the madcap second act of Lend Me A Tenor or the womanizing Tito the Star? All photos, courtesy, Westchester Broadway Theatre by John Vechchiolla

WPCNR STAGE DOOR. Theatrical Review by John F. Bailey. January 5, 2019:

It’s a Sunday in the 1930s in the old West End and Noel Coward brightened up a nervous war wary London bringing the old reliable genre- the impossible farce – a sophisticated combination of slapstick, mistaken identity and incongruous door slamming, hiding in closets, bathrooms, hustling lovers in and out and shuffling corpses,  flavored with rapid fire repartee that lifted audiences out of their chairs, from Blithe Spirit to Present Laughter to Private Lives Coward spoofed the upper classes and kept them laughing.

Westchester Broadway Theatre, in a stroke of timely inspiration, takes us deep into the heart and optimism of a show business promoter—with America’s farce master: Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor, winner of  3 Tony awards and 4 Drama Desk awards when it took  to Broadway in 1989 then came back in 2010,and nominated for three more.

Flash

to Friday night present to one of those old  stuffy WBT Grand Hotel room suites of 1934  with austere wallpaper, small rooms, and tinny doors in Cleveland.

Saunders, the General Manager of the Cleveland Opera Company played with David Merrick panache by the veteran Broadway master, Philip Hoffman,  nervously awaits Max (his assistant, J.D. Daw) to transport the star of the night’s sold-out benefit performance to the hotel.

Saunders is distraught when Max arrives without Tito Merelli, (Joey Sorge, recently seen in A Bronx Tale on Broadway) was not on the train. Saunders has a fit and right away you catch his anxiety. A full house and no star!

But the show must go on–no matter who sings.

J.D. Daw shows Maggie (Ms. McCaskill), he has singing chops. Their romance is heated up by Max being “tapped” for stardom.

Saunders immediately hits on the idea of  Max, who sings, as possibly replacing Tito. But dismisses it. Maggie (Saunders’ daughter, whom Max adores) enters and it appears Max sings pretty good to her.  When Tito arrives with his  romantic Italian accent, and possessive wife,  Maggie hides in a closet to get his autograph.

THE IMPRESARIO
Philip Hoffman as Saunders, tries to calm down Maria Tito the Tenor’s wife, as Kathy Voytko explodes in perfect indignation in high dudgeon as she gives Tito the tenor (the quintessential Italian star Joey Sorg) tries to get a word in edgewise. She’s the top! J.D.Daw as Max cringes at her vintage vitriol.  It was Ms. Voytko’s Westchester Broadway Theatre debut ,a hilarious triumph

Tito’s  demanding high strung Italian spitfire wife Maria is given  high drama, hilarious volatility by Kathy Voytco (never has a perfect Italian nose been held higher), Maria takes umbrage, assuming Maggie is a secret lover. Maria writes Tito telling him  she is leaving him.

Emoting, Tito says he is going to kill himself, but Max calms him down.

THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE, KID
Joey Sorge as Tito the Tenor (right) captures the colossal egos of every tenor who ever lived, After threatening to kill himself , Tito gives Max (J.D. Daw) singing lessons.
 Their duet is a satirical simplification of opera cliches worth seeing if you hate opera or love it.
The duet ends up saving the day

He gives Max singing lessons and they duet together, momentarily assuaging Tito’s grief. Tito lies down for a nap. When Max goes to get him. Tito is dead.

Saunders is distraught, again he approaches Max that he could impersonate Tito. And the farce rumbles into high, non-stop mayhem.

WHAT’S GOING ON?
Enter Max, (Daw) as Maria encounters the post performance liaisons:
The comic bellhop, Sam Seferian, obsequiously snarky, Tregoney Shepheard as Julia Chair of the Opera Guild who is pursuing Tito (Joey Sorg) who is pursuing Maggie (Molly McCaskill) , while Philip Hoffman as Saunders is trying to explain Diana the redheaded Soprano Hannah Jane McMurray .

On to the Second Act. Max pulls off the impersonation of Tito and the audience is deceived (a magnificent joke in itself). Now the door slamming begins in earnest.

Diana, the soprano looking for her next role with Tito, comes to the hotel room to meet Tito, who is the real Tito. The case of mistaken identity engulfs the redhead opera soprano, Hannah Jane McMurray, looking to meet Tito and possibly get a break. She seduces Tito (who goes along willingly) works her wiles on him in hilarious style.

 Maggie comes into  congratulate Tito on his performance, thinking he is the real Tito, but instead he is Max, who is all too willing to accept her praise.

It is hard to tell who is who without a scorecard. Every character is trying to hide from the other.

This was the first performance Friday night and was right on the money with timing, choreography of door slams. Mollie McCasskill, in her WBT debut(Maggie), and Hannah Jane McMurray (Diana)  fit their roles like gloves, emulated show business ingénues superbly, and fit in seamlessly frantic in their madcap dashes in and out of closets.

Philip Hoffman  as the master producer Saunders steals  the show as the plotting mastermind who reacts to every crisis with a fantastic solution, earning big laughs, dominating when is onstage.

Joey Sorge (Tito), the real tenor, struts and emotes with vintage Italian exaggeration, embodies the machismo and ego of a star tenor, and is at his comic best in playing off the ladies whom he does not know.  He also lies on a bed for a good portion of the play which is an amusement in itself. Such a ludicrous sight to see.

J. D. Daw (Max) compliments Sorge (Tito) with perfect comic interplay, expressions of bewilderment, shock, and apprehension with deadpans, horror and gazes that keep the audience chuckling, guffawing and laugh out loud bursts. His singing is a bonus!

The play appears to be a take off on the real life incident when the choreographer of 42nd Street died before opening night in 1956, and the producer did not tell the cast of the death until after the opening night performance.

Do yourself a favor, get away from CNN, CSPAN, FOX NEWS, and leave laughing to the last door slam at Lend Me a Tenor, playing through January 26.

Book your suite next door to the doings in the producers’ suite at the WBT Hotel. Call the box office at (914) 592 2222 or go to www.BroadwayTheatre.com.

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